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This won’t be a typical podcast and post. As I’m recording this, we’re about halfway into a national social distancing experiment to combat the Coronavirus. People are stressed out, anxious, and stepping all over each other at home. We’re worried about our jobs and our retirement savings and wondering if grandma’s going to get the virus.
So, instead of sharing a story for you to share with your kids to teach them some important life lesson. I’m just going to share a story for you — the parent. And the purpose isn’t to necessarily teach you anything. It’s just to give you a few minutes to think about something other than the current crisis, and to give you an opportunity to breathe, to smile, and to laugh.
And to do that, I’ve picked one of my favorite stories from my newest book, Four Days with Kenny Tedford. . .
Excerpt from chapter 1
Life is a series of short stories, one leaving off where the next one starts. But most of us don’t have them named and memorized. Fortunately for me, Kenny had.
It was 10 o’clock in the morning on our first of four days of in-person interviews at my house. My wife had made a nice breakfast and we’d enjoyed a cup of tea on the patio before getting started. We spent our first few minutes deciding where to start. My eyes instantly focused on the story he called, “The Night I Lost My Manhood in the Haunted House.” Of course I asked for that one first.
Wouldn’t you? My request sent Kenny into a fit of genuine laughter.
Why does everyone always want to hear that story? I could have twenty stories, and everyone always goes, ‘We wanna hear how you lost your manhood in the haunted house!’
“Of course, they do!” I said. “Who doesn’t want to hear a good sex story?”
I said that not knowing if Kenny could understand me through his own belly laughs.
It was close to Halloween. A group of deaf friends of mine, Joe, John, and Crystal, decided to get together and go to a haunted cemetery and haunted house. They asked if I could come with them, and I said, “Sure! I love haunted things.” So we all met up at the place. And it was awesome! It was this huge property, like a farm. And there were monsters behind the trees and spooky things everywhere. It was really decked out. And they had hot chocolate and popcorn. It was a beautiful Fall evening.
But it was really popular, so there was a long line we had to wait in. And while we waited, it got dark. We were talking to each other, mostly in sign language: “Are you scared? … Yeah, you scared?”
But I said, “Not me. I can handle this.” I was acting like the big tough guy. Well, eventually it was our turn, and we got to go through the cemetery. There were grave markers everywhere, covered with leaves. And my deaf friends just walked right into the middle of the place. The deaf are suckers for stuff like this, because they can’t hear anything sneak up on them. But I kind of stayed back a little bit, I figured something was gonna happen.
And sure enough, about that time, a monster jumped out from one of the graves. My friends started screaming and running away. A man that worked there started yelling at them to stop running, because it wasn’t safe. But that’s not gonna work with deaf people, so I had to go run after them to get ‘em to stop.
Then we decided to just go on to the haunted house, because they’d gotten scared enough at the cemetery. When we got close enough, you could see monsters and ghosts in the windows when the lights would flash. My friends looked at me and asked me if I was getting scared now. I just said, “No. I’m not the one who ran out of the cemetery like a baby, remember?”
We got into the house and started walking down the hallway. It was dark, and there were spider webs everywhere. Really creepy. And I started feeling a little edgy. Maybe even a little scared.
Then we went into this room, it was a funeral parlor. It had a casket with a body in it. And if you’ve been in haunted houses as much as I have, you knew what was gonna happen. The body was gonna rise up. So there we were, three completely deaf people and me. Two of them to my left and one to my right. And we were all waiting for this body to rise up.
And that’s when I heard it. And if I can hear something, it’s got to be pretty loud. But I knew what it was immediately, because I had just seen this movie called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was a chainsaw buzzing at full speed right behind us. The hearing people behind us screamed and all ran out of the room immediately. But the three deafs just kept signing to each other, talking about the dead body in the casket, how ugly it was, and wondering if it was gonna rise up.
One of the hallmarks of a good story is that the listener loses track of time. I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t realize how long I’d been listening. And as much I was enjoying this story, I was getting a little impatient. All this detail about the goings-on in the haunted house seemed like strange foreplay. Maybe it’s a deaf thing, I thought. I decided I’d just have to be patient.
So the guy buzzes his chainsaw a few more times, but none of us even turned around. Finally, he says something really loud. I imagine it was something like, “Hey, I’ve got a chainsaw and I’m gonna cut you in half!”
Well I figured I’d help this guy out. I turned around and told him, “These three people are deaf.”
And he says, “Oh, okay.” He fires up his chainsaw again. But, you have to understand. His chainsaw engine is running and it’s really loud. But the chain isn’t actually moving, so it doesn’t hurt anyone. He walks up behind them and rakes the chainsaw blade across the back of all of their legs in one quick motion. They turned around and saw a crazy man with a bloody chainsaw blade in his hand and their legs hurt and they jumped out of their skins! They turned around to run the other way, and right then is when the dead body in the casket jumped up in their faces. They weren’t even done screaming about the chainsaw. I thought they were gonna have heart attacks right there.
Well, they all ran around the casket and out of the room with me chasing after them. And it was pretty dark in there. John managed to get out of the house. Crystal was running down the hallway right in front of me. And somehow Joe got behind me. He must have gotten lost in the hallways. And they were both screaming like crazy.
Seriously? I took another mental pause. Nobody in this story seemed any closer to getting laid than they did when it started. I felt like a teenage boy desperately flipping through a stolen Playboy Magazine to find a sufficiently naked picture.
We came to the last hallway to get out of the house. And it was so dark we were staying really close together. Well, it turns out they’d taken out the floor in that hallway and replaced it with a sponge pit.
When Crystal got to the spongy part of the floor, she fell down in it. I guess that’s what was supposed to happen. And then, of course, I fell on top of her. And Joe fell on top of me. I tried to get up. But every time I got a few inches up, I fell back down. Joe was too heavy. I kept trying, but I kept falling back down. So Crystal started yelling and screaming and calling me names.
I don’t think she knew it was me and Joe on top of her. It must have felt like one big huge heavy man that she didn’t know. And to make it worse, it probably seemed like I was humping her on her butt. And so then she started kicking like mad! And she was kicking right where my jewels are, if you know what I mean. And she started kicking harder and harder, all while she was yelling louder and louder. And I’m screaming at her to stop. But she’s deaf, stone deaf!
I started to realize while she was kicking me that I may never have babies in my life! I was losing my manhood right there on the floor of that haunted house. I could feel my jewels headed to the back of my butt!
And there it was. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of the situation in all its slapstick glory. But also, with a knowing and bittersweet realization at the innocent misdirection this entire story had been. I’d assumed “losing his manhood” was Kenny’s child-like and awkward way of describing losing his virginity. Perhaps a combination of losing virginity and gaining manhood? Regardless, the result was that for the last ten minutes I’d been waiting, and waiting, and WAITING to hear about him having sex in a haunted house, only to find out the whole damn story was just about him getting kicked in the balls.
I could tell he had no idea how misleading his story title was. It would have been an impressively clever ruse had it been intentional. I found his accidental execution even more charming.
As he continued the story, I wondered how long I could go without explaining what had just happened. Or, if I should at all.
But it wasn’t over yet. Because while I was going up and down trying to get out of this mess, and in pain trying to save my jewels, Joe was bouncing up and down humping me on my butt. So I started yelling at him, “Get off of me!” But he’s stone deaf too, and we’re all face down in the dark, so nobody can see anyone’s lips.
Then I looked up to try to get some help. And standing there looking down on us is John. And he’s just laughing his head off. In fact, several of the people who had just run out had turned around and were watching us and laughing. So I yelled up at them, “Don’t just stand there! Get me out of this. I can’t stand it anymore!”
Finally, somebody flipped the light switch on and helped us up. I thought, “Thank God this is over.” But I couldn’t even stand up straight I was in so much pain. I just stood there bent over holding my jewels. And Crystal stood up and turned around and she started to slap me across the face! I reached up just in time to stop her.
And as soon as she recognized me, her face looked terrified. She said, “Oh my gosh, Kenny, I didn’t know it was you! I thought you were a stranger trying to do something awful to me.” Then Joe came out of the sponges, laughing with a smile on his face. I’d just lost my manhood and almost had my face slapped, and everyone else is laughing and smiling. Go figure.
I was in so much pain, it took a while to get home. I could barely walk. But I got there. I went straight to the bathroom and took all my clothes off to take a shower. I looked down, and it was all purple and blue! My jewels. That kind of made me sick to my stomach. And then when I was washing myself, and I got down a little bit below my belly button, I felt something strange. It was like little bumps or ridges. I looked down. And it was hard to make out. But there on my skin were three words that look like they’d been stamped on my skin backwards, “Just Do It.” That woman had kicked me so hard with the back of her Nike tennis shoe, it left a mark!
Well, that threw me into another fit of laughter. “No, no, no, no, Kenny. No way.”
I’m tellin’ you, Paul, her shoes left a mark!
“On your penis?”
Nooooah, it’s not on my Wally. Between my belly button and there. Everything else down there was too black and blue to see much else. But there it was.
My jewels hurt for four days. I even went to my doctor to make sure everything was okay. Of course, I had to tell him what happened. And I got about halfway into the story and he started cracking up! Can you believe it? It took me a lot of years before that story was funny to me. But this was the first time he’d ever heard it, and I’m in his office to make sure my parts are still gonna work and he can’t stop laughing.
Well, I guess deaf people talk loud, because one of the nurses came into the room to listen to the story. And then another one. And another one. Pretty soon half the doctors and nurses were listening to the story, and I said, “Don’t you all have patients to take care of?”
They said, “Nah, there’s only two other people in here right now.”
So I finished telling the story and my doctor looked at me and said, “Please tell me you’re gonna tell that in a show.”
I said, “No way! This is too personal.”
He said, “You’ve got to tell it. It’s funny!”
“Oh yeah, Doc. Well, it wasn’t your jewels.”
And that was the night I lost my manhood in the haunted house.
After another good laugh, I couldn’t resist the urge. I told Kenny that part of what’s so entertaining about his stories is the unintentional confusion it sometimes creates. This wasn’t the first time it had happened. And I hoped my explaining it wouldn’t make it the last. But I was pretty sure I couldn’t stop it from happening even if I wanted to.
I told him, “For example, just the title of this story, the night I lost my manhood. I assumed you made a mistake and really meant the night you lost your virginity. Or, maybe when you gained your manhood. You know, if you ask a lot of guys when they became a man, they’d tell you it was the first time they had sex. So in a sense, losing your virginity is gaining your manhood.”
As those words were coming out of my mouth, a look of confusion washed over Kenny’s face. It looked a lot like I imagine my face did when he was two-thirds of the way through his story and nobody had their pants off yet.
And then he said the following …
But I didn’t think guys had ‘virginity.’ I thought that’s just what girls have.
And that’s the moment I knew for sure I wouldn’t be able to stop Kenny Tedford from being Kenny Tedford even if I tried.
Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed this little respite from today’s drama. If you did, you’ll definitely enjoy the rest of the book. It’s called Four Days with Kenny Tedford: Life Through the Eyes of a Child Trapped in a Partially Blind & Deaf Man’s Body. If we say in lockdown longer, I may share a few more stories. We’ll see. In fact, let me know if you’d like that. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay well. And wash your hands!
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Source: Four Days with Kenny Tedford, by Paul Smith
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.
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